What is Tetanus?

Tetanus is a sporadic and relatively uncommon infec­tion in Europe. The confirmed case rate remains low, mainly because laboratory confirmation is usually not performed for tetanus and diagnosis is based on clinical presentation.

Tetanus differs from diphtheria in that there is no person-to person spread of the organism, and exposure will never disappear because the bacterium is found ubiquitously in the environment.



  • The overall confirmed case rate in the EU is 0.02 per 100,000
  • In 2010, 130 cases, including 74 confirmed cases were reported by 12 EU/EEA countries
  • In 2010, Italy accounted for 57 of the 74 confir­med cases; Italy has the highest number of tetanus cases since 2006 for unknown reasons [ECDC 2013]
  • The highest reported rate is in the age group aged 65 years and older (0.02 per 100,000) [ECDC 2013]
  • Females account for 63% of reported cases almost all of them in the 65 year and older group [ECDC 2013]

Tetanus is included in the primary vaccination sche­dule of all EU countries, and widespread use oftetanus vaccination in EU/EEA countries contributes to the low disease rate. Periodic vaccination in adulthood is required to maintain immunity [ECDC 2013].

  • For both tetanus and diphtheria, maintaining high vaccination through all age groups, including adult booster coverage, is essential to build on the progresses achieved and avoid the risks of outbreaks [ECDC 2013].

Tetanus: Summary of Key Points

  • Tetanus is a sporadic and uncommon infection due to universal childhood vaccination andregular boosters in EU/EEA
  • There is no person-to-person spread
  • Highest reported rates are seen in adults aged >65 years
  • Periodic vaccination in adulthood is required to maintain immunity
  • Catch-up vaccination strategies are needed in countries with higher rates of disease